Kansas Common Sense
Dec 19 2011
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On Saturday, the Senate passed H.R. 2055, the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year 2012. President Obama is expected to sign the $915 billion spending bill into law this week. I voted against this bill because Congress is once against skirting responsibility by lumping appropriations bills together with little review. It’s time for Congress to do the job it was elected to do, take the appropriations process seriously and formulate a fair and honest budget with proper oversight.
The Senate also passed the Payroll Tax Extension bill, H.R. 3630, by a vote of 89 – 10. This legislation is a year-end package of expiring laws that extends for two months the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance. I voted against this bill because I believe the money should be used to pay for deficit reduction – not another stimulus plan. Once again we are putting off difficult decisions and leaving it up to our children and grandchildren to pay for our irresponsibility. This legislation has been sent back to the House for a vote.
Finally, this week the Senate rejected two competing versions of a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment. I am a sponsor of S.J. Res 10, legislation which would require the President to submit and Congress to pass a balanced budget each year. In addition, this Balanced Budget Amendment would cap federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product. This bill was defeated by a vote of 47 – 53.
Keeping the Internet OPEN
The internet continues to be a driving force for innovation and economic growth in our country. Whether you are a high-tech entrepreneur, a small business owner, or a Kansan with a good idea, an open web facilitates innovation as a global marketplace for goods and services. Any legislation affecting the internet must be carefully considered – we cannot afford unintended consequences. That is why I joined Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon this week in introducing legislation aimed at stopping online piracy and preserving the infrastructure and open nature of the internet while protecting constitutional rights and the security of American citizens.
While we must preserve the interests of intellectual property right holders, the Online Piracy Elimination Now Act (OPEN) takes a more targeted approach to combat online infringement than other pieces of legislation currently pending before the House and Senate. Unlike Protect IP and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the OPEN Act provides a clear and uniform system of due process and does not compromise the secure operation of the internet. Our legislation allows the International Trade Commission (ITC) to conduct investigations – prompted by intellectual property rights holders – of rogue foreign websites that infringe upon U.S. copyrights and trademarks. Upon review, the ITC would have the authority to issue a cease and desist order to compel payment processors like PayPal and Visa, as well as online advertising providers, to cease doing business with the foreign sites in question. In effect, this would cut off profits for foreign sites engaging in illegal activity.
Protect IP and SOPA both raise serious constitutional and security concerns and include provisions that effectively chill investment in innovation. The OPEN Act protects the ideas, innovation and rights of entrepreneurs to use the internet to promote their goods and services, while establishing a uniform and clear means for enforcement against foreign counterfeiters. Click here to read more. Click here to join the discussion on Twitter.
Kansas War Hero Now Eligible to Receive Medal of Honor
A Kansas war hero, Father Emil Kapaun, is now eligible to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his courageous actions on the battlefields and in prison camps of the Korean War. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by Congress this week, includes a provision introduced by me along with the members of the Kansas Congressional delegation to waive the three year time limitation and request that the President award Father Kapaun the Medal of Honor. Click here to watch a short message from Pat Roberts and I sharing this good news. Click here to read more about Father Kapaun's moving story.
Working to Bring More Doctors to Rural America
On Monday, I joined Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota in introducing S. 1979, the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act, legislation to improve and make permanent the State 30 program, a national initiative that permits states to recommend visa waivers for foreign-born, American-trained doctors recruited to care for patients in medically underserved communities. Access to quality health care determines whether Kansans can remain in the communities they call home, and whether their children can return to raise families of their own. The Conrad State 30 program is a commonsense way to address medical workforce shortages by allowing more doctors to serve in underserved communities.
Sen. Conrad created the popular State 30 program through legislation he first introduced in 1994, and I introduced legislation to extend the program during my time in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the State 30 program, foreign-born, American-trained doctors agree to practice medicine in underserved communities for at least three years in exchange for a visa that extends their stay in the United States. Since its inception, the State 30 program has been extended numerous times and brought more than 9,000 doctors to rural and underserved communities in all 50 states.
S. 1979 would increase the number of qualified doctors available to provide care in underserved areas and provide additional incentives for doctors to participate in the program. This bill also provides a method for states to increase the number of waivers available to them to help recruit doctors to work in underserved communities. The physician shortage in America is a growing crisis. By 2020, projections show the nation may fall short by as many as 200,000 doctors. This shortage will be felt hardest in rural areas in Kansas and across the nation and this bill is one way to address this need. Click here to read more.
Recognizing our Nation’s Commitment to Cancer Research
On Tuesday, I commemorated the 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act and announced the introduction of a bipartisan resolution recognizing our nation’s commitment to cancer research. I am honored to be the lead Republican sponsor of S. Res. 347, a bipartisan measure with 45 Senate co-sponsors that is supported by more than 100 patient groups, cancer institutes, hospitals and medical schools including the University of Kansas Cancer Center. This resolution passed the Senate on Thursday. More than 12 million Americans have survived cancer thanks in part to the United States’ commitment to cancer research and due to advances in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment. Given the vast amount of progress made over the last century and the great potential current research holds, I believe the United States must not waiver on its commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments. I held a press conference with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio to recognize this anniversary and speak about the importance of cancer research. Click here to view highlights from this press conference. Click here to read a press release, which includes the text of this resolution.
Seeking Relief for Kansas Communities During Levee Rehabilitation
On Friday, I introduced the Redundant Remapping Reform Act to provide financial relief for Kansas communities whose levee systems are undergoing rehabilitation, modification or construction. Several Kansas communities are attempting to rehabilitate their flood protection systems in order to protect lives and property. The maps used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess whether or not a home or business lies within a 100-year flood plain are in the process of being significantly updated. As a result, flood plains are changing frequently as levee systems and mitigation efforts are updated. This ongoing project requires FEMA to map and remap the same area as flood plains change.
The remapping process is costly for taxpayers and harmful to home and business owners whose insurance needs change with every new insurance map update. By affording communities the opportunity to postpone the remapping of an area that is updating its levee system, residents of these eligible communities could save hundreds of dollars each year in insurance premiums. American taxpayers would also save millions of dollars by eliminating redundant flood map updates of the same protected area. This commonsense approach allows communities to continue working toward better flood protection while providing more certainty for residents and their home and business insurance needs. Click here to read more.
Tom Hoenig Nomination to FDIC Passes Committee
Earlier this week, the Senate Banking Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Tom Hoenig to be the Vice Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). A graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, Mr. Hoenig spent almost four decades at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, including 20 years as president. He has been a friend and advisor for several years now and I believe that his decades of experience in bank supervision and economic analysis is valuable to the FDIC Board at this critical moment. I was pleased to support his nomination and hope Mr. Hoenig is confirmed by the full Senate as quickly as possible.
Visiting Andover Middle School
I had a great time Monday morning when I stopped by Andover Middle School in Andover to visit with administrators and students. The visit started at the administration office, where I had the opportunity to listen as Superintendent Mark Evans and members of USD 358 Board of Education shared their concerns about school funding, federal spending cuts and sequestration. During the meeting I was encouraged to learn about the online learning opportunities provided by the school. After my visit with administrators, I visited Ms. Smokorowski’s 8th grade Language Arts class and participated in a visual ranking project, during which we individually ranked 14 essential freedoms with respect to how important we felt they were. We then compared our personal rankings with the class as a whole. I was impressed with how engaging and articulate these 8th graders were. Thanks to Ms. Smokorowski and her students for spending time with me, and thank you to USD 385 Superintendent of Schools Mark Evans and Andover Middle School Principal Brett White for the invitation. Click here to view photos from my visit.
Celebrating the Life of Sgt. David E. Enzbrenner
This week I attended the funeral for Sgt. David Ernest Enzbrenner, an Atchison Police Officer who was killed in the line of duty on Friday, December 9. I shared my condolences and sympathy with David’s family and the Atchison community. When a small town loses one of its own the impact is felt far and wide because the person is someone known and cared for. It was inspiring to see the brotherhood of law enforcement surrounding the family and sharing in their loss. Officers from all around the country were there, and each and every one of them continues to protect and serve even through this terrible loss. My thoughts and prayers are with David’s widow Kerri and his three daughters, Avery, Abbi and Celia as well as the Atchison community during this tragic time.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Kansas Farm Bureau
Terry Holdren of Topeka
Kansas State University
Dr. Charles Reagan of Manhattan
Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics
Randall O’Donnell of Leawood
Genny Nicholas of Kansas City
Dallas Polen of Overland Park
Southern Medical LLC
Timothy Hand of Wichita
Ramesh Sundaram of Olathe
Thales Air Traffic Management Systems
Todd Donovan of Shawnee
Eric Haar of Topeka
Angel Capital Association
Marianne Hudson of Overland Park
Chuck Udell of Leawood was also in the office to take a tour of the US Capitol.
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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